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The Usurped Time

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

María Laura Pérez Gras


These poems were first published in Spanish in El tiempo usurpado, Corregidor (2022). The poet has translated them to English exclusively for The Aleph Review.


I

Every step in the night

is a stolen instant

to the stillness of the house

to the silence of the world.

I hesitate between the bed

and the sofa

but I walk.

Is it reminiscence

of the hammock in the garden?

Of the dance in the womb?

Or is it the memory of water,

the ebb and flow of the tides,

under the whims of the moon?

I walk

with no counterpoint

without resistance or destiny.

I run away from myself

in the sleepless night

to the beat of the breathing

of those who sleep.

The children, the husband,

the dog,

the plants.

I flee from time,

who also walks

and pursues me,

shameless.


II

When the morning moves forward

on the floor tiles

and the furniture recovers its colour

and its shape,

tiredness oppresses me

my temples

the nape of my neck

my whole body

and I collapse

on the half of the bed

that awaits

with open jaws.

I give in, surrendered.

The mattress crunches me

and nothing is left

to get me up

until the end of the morning.


VII

The man in the mask

warns us about

some scarce supply

every time he comes back to the house.

Children play zombies

barricaded in the bedrooms.

The fallen sick

come back from the dead

to infect the living

with the plague.

Laughter is replaced by screaming

during the day

and overnight.

Nightmares

sleepwalk

to keep me up at night

tangling time

erasing the steps of a routine

that I could no longer grasp.

We have lunch in the middle of the afternoon.

Class schedules

get confused

or get lost

in the drawers of the socks

that I forgot to wash.

We have dinner with what's left.

No one reads stories

anymore

before going to bed.

The garbage bags await,

while a group

of fat cockroaches

feast away.

Art by Romina Santos

XIII

We lost access

to the only tap

with water.

I don't say anything

for hours.

Words are no longer useful.

They cannot be ingested

or heated.

Nor do they help to understand.

Why hasn't he returned?

The man with his prey?

Did he get lost in the mob

of hungry youths?

Has he got stolen

the hunt of the day?

Is he dead?

From cold, hunger,

fear?

Or just

dead?

Children play

as cavemen.

Growl in a language

unknown

half-naked by day

shivering at night.

They paint the walls with crayons

and get surprised

at the faltering shadows

projected by

the last fires

of the last candles.


XVII

If I could grow

a shell

on my back

I would remain

still

listening

to my own nostalgia for the sea.

I would wait

for the tide to rise

to let me go.

I would recite a hymn of my own

like an echo,

a mantra:

"Silent time chest,

cradle of life,

infinite sea,

receive me in the deep sanctuary

of your waters.

I want to be a fish again.

become algae,

coral, rock, air.

I want to witness the meeting

between nothingness and being,

recover tomorrow,

regain hope".

XI

We have been living for months

on the islands of the river

in the generous delta

of clay

and the sun.

During the confinement of men

Nature was liberated

of poisons.

With famine

The young ran away

In stampede

from the blindness

of their elders.

And they found in the delta

the shelter of mud.

They chased away the monsters

of the wetlands.

They organized the islanders.

Old custodians

of the sacred soil

taught them how to cultivate the land

and to fish with their hands.

Now my children

feed me

like a wounded sparrow

that no longer flies.


XX

I'm in the land

of the jauja or the cucaña.

Fish jump into the baskets

that we left on the shore.

Oranges

go from flower to fruit

in a few hours

and walnut trees ripen

before being seed.

Quails and geese

leave bunches of eggs

inside the shoes

waiting for dawn

under the shelter of the alders.

Sunsets are violet

or red as clay

and the nights

more celestial

than all the other heavens.

Translucent

water

washes children's heads

who are born

with every moon

from the riverbed.

Millions of fireflies

light the way

towards this network

of dream catchers

made of river threads

island ridges

and trails.

Thus

from time to time

we are reached

by a wandering male

confused

pilgrim of the continent.

Thus

I feed my hope

that you´ll forget the hunt

abandon the prey

and get here,

my love,

empty-handed,

feet of clay,

so that you can

heal as well

from the abuse of men

and learn

the song of the clan.


 


María Laura Pérez Gras was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1978. She is a PhD in literature and researcher at CONICET. She is a professor of Argentine literature at the Universidad del Salvador, where she is the head of the Doctorate in Literature and research groups on Argentine literature. Her many academic publications include the book Relatos de cautiverio (2013) and the volumes of the critical edition Cautiverio y prisión de Santiago Avendaño (2018-2022). Her first novel, El único refugio, was published in 2019 by Ediciones Corregidor. Her first book of poetry, El tiempo usurpado (The Usurped Time), belongs to the new collection in Ediciones Corregidor of contemporary poetry.



Romina Santos is a visual artist, printmaker and teacher of Visual Arts. She lives in Patagonia, Argentina. Her illustrations and engravings are included in various digital and paper publications. She is the author of the cover art of books and albums of artists from Patagonia. She has shown her work in individual and collective exhibitions in different cities of the country. She is a member of the artists’ collective Fish in the desert. The engraving Durazno (Peach), from the series based on the collection of poems El coloquio de las plantas, by Luciana Mellado, is one of her most recent works.

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